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Tennis Champion Martina Navratilova Was ‘Paid 10 Times Less’ Than Male Co-Star John McEnroe

Martina Navratilova, one of the most successful tennis players of all time, has revealed that she was paid 10 times less than her male co-star John McEnroe for last year’s Wimbledon coverage. 

Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles during her 30-year career before becoming a commentator, made the revelation in an interview with the BBC’s Panorama investigations team. 

She alleged that she was told by the BBC she would be receiving a salary comparable to the men who were doing the same job as her. 

But, when the BBC revealed its top-paid talent last summer, she found out that her co-star John McEnroe received at least £150,000 — compared to her £15,000 salary. 

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“It’s still the good old boys network,” she told Panorama. “The bottom line is that male voices are valued more than women’s voices.” 

“It’s shocking if really, this happens to me then, you know, for me it’s a part-time job, it’s two weeks of my life,” she said. “But for the women that work there full time, maybe the discrepancy’s not that large, but it adds up over a lifetime, it adds up to an amazing amount of money.” 

But the BBC defended the disparity, saying in a statement that McEnroe’s role was of “a different scale, scope, and time commitment” to Navratilova’s, and that gender didn’t come into it. 

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“He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage,” said the BBC. “He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences, and his contract means he cannot work for another UK broadcaster without our permission.” 

It added: “They are simply not comparable.” 

McEnroe, who won seven Grand Slam singles titles before retiring from tennis, appeared in the list of the BBC’s top-paid talent last year as earning between £150,000 and £199,999.

Sports writer Mike Dickson commented on Twitter that “gender politics are rarely far from the surface in tennis.” 

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Meanwhile, co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer added: “Perhaps McEnroe works longer hours but hard to imagine why BBC pays [Martina Navratilova] just 10% of his fee #YouCannotBeSerious.”

The Navratilova interview was carried out by Panorama for a documentary called “Britain’s Equal Pay Scandal” which will be shown at 7:30pm on March 19. 

When the BBC revealed its top earners last summer — everyone earning over £150,000 directly from the publicly paid licence fee — it sparked a huge row about the gender and ethnic pay gaps within the corporation. 

The highest seven salaries were all paid out to white men. Not a single woman earned more than £500,000 in the year 2016-7, while no black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) star made it into the top 15. 

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From 96 names on the list, just a third were female, and only 10 were from BAME backgrounds. 

In January, one of the BBC’s leading journalists, Carrie Gracie, quit her role as China editor after learning that her male peers were earning at least 50% more. 

A group of more than 130 broadcasters and producers, known as BBCWomen, voiced its support, saying it was “hugely regrettable that an outstanding and award-winning journalist like Carrie Gracie feels she has no option but to resign from her post…because the BBC has not valued her equally with her male counterparts.” 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on gender equality. You can join us by taking action here. Tackling gender inequality around the world is one of our key campaign goals in the run-up to the Commonwealth Summit — to be held in London in April. You can earn free tickets to Global Citizen Live at O2 Academy Brixton by taking action with us on gender equality. Find out more here